Finally got got off the waiting list and been offered an allotment plot. It's been empty for a while and is completely covered in horsetail. I've just been reading that Horsetail is the 'lodger from Hell' and the best I can hope for is a continual fight. Any suggestions how to start? Is it worth covering and mulching while I work on a small area at a time? Should I just spent a few months weeding and not worry about planting till next year? Any help would be appreciated, thanks.

  • 1
    Just to be clear, are we talking about equisetum: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum
    – GardenerJ
    Jun 10, 2015 at 12:44
  • I'm going organic on this allotment so it will just be digging and handpulling. Thanks for all the replies.
    – user11657
    Jul 4, 2015 at 8:16
  • Hi! It looks like you have a couple of user accounts. If you’d like to merge them (which will allow you to edit, comment on any of your posts and accept an answer on your question), please see the instructions. Welcome to the site!
    – Niall C.
    Jul 4, 2015 at 14:25
  • Two growing seasons on (assuming you're North of the equator), how is this going?
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 23, 2016 at 22:24

5 Answers 5


If you are willing to put in the time weeding, just go ahead and plant - might as well get something useful grown while you are weeding. Horsetail is a pain to get rid of but really easy to spot, and it does not tend to shade out your actual crop plants - just keep pulling it whenever you spot it.

You could try the usual methods (smother crops, solarizing, etc) but horsetail and cockroaches will be the flora and fauna that are still here after armageddon, IME, thus my suggestion to get on with growing something useful. Of the nasty persistent weeds I have to put up with, it's the least offensive in many ways (I'll trade you ALL my creeping buttercup for horsetail.)


I tried various ways to control this weed including herbicides, vinegar, boiling water and propane torch. This weed can spread underneath a flagstone that is two feet wide and pop up on the other side.

The most effective method is to manually pick the tails after they have grown a few inches tall or more. If you keep doing this year after year they will loose vigor.

Another effective method is to put a barrier in the soil around your plot. I like EPDM food grade pond liner. You can dig a trench six or eight inches deep, place the liner inside and backfill with soil. Follow up with hand picking and you should see results in a few years.


This plant is hard to remove, because its roots may be meters deep in the ground, and it is resistant to many herbicides. It's also one of the first plants to emerge after a volcano eruption and one of the last to die in polluted areas.

However, it need soil with plenty of silicium (sandy or clay), it doesn't like shade, and it grows best on poor, bare soil. So the best way to surpress it is probably to alter the soil by applying plenty of fertilizers and grow other vegetation that overshadows it. However, I don't think you will get rid of it very easily. After all, the plant has deep roots, and a thin top layer of well fertilized humus won't stop it.


I have used RoundUp on horsetail and it worked to a large extent, but…

  • The Horsetail needed to be damaged with a soft broom first, as otherwise the herbicides just runs off it.

  • You will not get all of it the first time, so repeat every few weeks.

Then you just need to pull up by hand EVERY bit that comes up, every few days and it will get defeated.

  • Funny, I tried this, crushing the stems to get better absorption and then Roundup for a few years but got better results with pulling by hand.
    – kevinskio
    Jun 14, 2015 at 23:01
  • @kevinsky, it worked for me, but I did RoundUp ProBio with two goes about 3 week apart that killed most of it. THEN I pull all stems that come up by hand, there was not many but if I had not pulled them by hand.... Jun 15, 2015 at 7:55

Weed killer meant for Poison Oak works better as it is designed to break through the waxy barrier Horsetail uses to protect itself. But it just kills the visible portion. It grows back. I am redoing my rock garden with a wide section of pond liner so I at least have some areas free of this menace from prehistoric times. I'll use rubber mulch from Home Depot to give an appearance of formality. Hoping the Horsetail doesn't pierce the liner. It grew right through my kids vinyl pool liner.

  • Hm. Pond liner, rubber mulch and weed killer are probably not helpful in a garden where the original poster wants to grow organic veggies?
    – Stephie
    May 7, 2016 at 15:07

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